Republicans and Democrats often have a stranglehold on the U.S. political process, but Americans are ready for that to change. According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted in early February, more than half of all voters in the United States believe a third party is needed, and a third of all voters would be willing to vote for a third-party candidate in the 2020 presidential election. A Gallup poll from October showed that 57 percent of Americans think a strong third party is needed.
It’s no wonder why. Another Gallup poll from January revealed that only 35 percent of Americans trust the U.S. government to handle domestic problems, a number that only increases to 41 percent for international troubles. Those are the lowest figures in more than 20 years. An August Gallup poll showed that 21 percent of Americans view government itself as the biggest problem facing the country.
This widespread dissatisfaction with U.S. government is consistent with the increasing prevalence of libertarian views among the general public. Polling shows that more than a quarter of Americans have political views that can be characterized as libertarian.
This all suggests that the Libertarian Party should be winning more and bigger electoral races than ever. In fact, that’s exactly what’s happening. Out of the 833 Libertarian candidates who ran in 2018, 55 were elected to public office in 11 states.
One of those elected officials is Jeff Hewitt, who won a seat on the Board of Supervisors for Riverside County, Calif., in the November election after spending eight years as the Libertarian mayor of Calimesa and even longer on the city’s planning commission. Hewitt recently gave the Libertarian Party’s 2019 State of the Union address, explaining how Libertarians would restrain runaway government spending, withdraw from never-ending wars abroad, end the surveillance state, protect privacy and property rights, end mass incarceration and the destructive war on drugs, and welcome immigrants who expand our economy and enrich our culture.
“Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt just might be the strangest Libertarian of them all,” the L.A. Times reported, “a politician capable of winning elections who could move the party from the fringes into the mainstream.”
During Hewitt’s time as mayor of Calimesa, he severed ties with the bloated pensions and overstaffing of the state-run fire department. He replaced it with a local alternative that costs far less and has been much more effective at protecting endangered property. This simple change also eliminated two layers of administrative costs at the county and state levels.
Now Hewitt is poised to bring Libertarian solutions to an even larger area in his new position with Riverside County, which has more residents than the populations of 15 different states. This rise from local success is a model that can be replicated around the country, suggests Fullerton College political science professor Jodi Balma, who said in the L.A. Times article that Hewitt’s success shows how Libertarian candidates can “build a pipeline to higher office” with successful local races that show the practical value of Libertarian Party ideas on a small scale before parlaying them into state and federal office.
That practical value is immense, as Libertarian Nebraska state Sen. Laura Ebke showed when she almost single-handedly passed statewide licensure reform to nearly unanimous 45 to 1 tri-partisan approval. This legislation clears the way for countless Nebraskans to build careers in fields that were once closed off from effective competition behind mountains of regulatory red tape.
The American people have the third party they’re looking for. The Libertarian Party is already the third-largest political party in the United States, and it shares the public’s values of fiscal responsibility and social tolerance — the same values that drive the public’s disdain for American politicians and wasteful, destructive, and ineffective government programs.
The Libertarian Party is also the only third party that routinely appears on ballots in every state.
“We now have ballot access for our 2020 presidential ticket in 33 states and Washington, D.C., which represents the best ballot access that any third party has achieved at this stage in the election cycle since 1914,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “This will substantially reduce the burden we’ve so often had in past years for achieving complete full ballot access throughout the United States. We had only 17 states with ballot access at this point after the 1992 midterm election — half as many as today.”
The climate is ripe for Libertarian progress. The pieces are all here, ready to be assembled. All it requires is building awareness of the Libertarian Party — our ideas, our values, our practical reforms, and our electoral successes — in the minds and hearts of the American public.